What’s New in Civic Tech: The Vaccine Rollout Goes Online

Plus, a new Kentucky state website allows visitors to test the speed of their connections, Miami has launched a new app to enable business licensing online via smartphones or computers, and more.

a patient receiving a vaccine injection
Shutterstock/Haris Mm
Perhaps the most pressing and widespread work happening in American civic tech right now is an effort at all levels of government to better-manage the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

This effort is creating a mosaic of online resources — many of which are born in or sanctioned by state, county and local governments — with the express purpose of helping users get access to the COVID-19 vaccine. In some places, this work is manifesting in simple data maps, while in others it is taking the shape of online portals to determine official eligibility in these early stages of the rollout.

In California, for example, technologists working with the California Department of Public Health have built myturn.ca.gov, a site that can be used to find out if you are a member of a group that has already been prioritized to receive the vaccine. If you’re not, you can also use that portal to be notified when you become eligible. 

The state website in Alaska has created a similar portal, launching a site that residents can also use to quite literally schedule their actual vaccination. That site is working in tandem with a similar — just more localized version — that was built by the innovation team in the state’s largest city, Anchorage. 

Some other government agencies, meanwhile, have taken a heavily-informational approach to their online efforts to rollout the COVID-19 vaccine. A website launched by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, along with the Colorado State Emergency Operations Center, is about as informational as it gets, offering visitors an extensive collection of infographics detailing the state’s three-phase rollout, when individuals can expect to become eligible for the vaccine, and more. 

Other states are working to facilitate connections between their residents and local pharmacies that are offering the vaccine, while some agencies at the county level have created a digital-inclusion-friendly text messaging interface to keep their residents up-to-date on vaccine news in the area.

Essentially, connecting residents to the COVID-19 vaccine has become a central point of much civic tech work in the U.S. in this young year, with technologists who work in all levels of government finding different, localized ways to make the rollout easier.

Kentucky State Website Tests User Broadband Speed

Of course, even the best-laid digital projects to help rollout the vaccine don’t mean much if communities don’t have equitable access to the Internet. In the service of ensuring this, Kentucky has added a feature to a state website that allows users to test their Internet speeds.

The new feature is the work of the Kentucky Broadband Initiative, which is a network of public and private partners who coordinate efforts to expand Internet access in that state, doing so by supporting stronger digital infrastructure. 

The new tool that they have created isn’t just limited to individuals learing about their own speeds. Site visitors can also use it to create an Internet speeds map for their communities, which advocates stress is key to applying for grants or establishing other viable efforts to bolster connection speeds across the country.

Dubbed the Internet Speed Test Kentucky, the tool was created in partnership with The Center for Rural Development and the Prichard Committee. It is housed on the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development website.

Miami Launches Business-Licensing App

Finally, this month Miami has launched a new mobile-friendly eStart Web app that residents can use to obtain business licensing via their computers or smartphones. 

“The new tool is designed to help entrepreneurs more easily open new businesses in the city of Miami,” Miami wrote in a press release, “and it comes online as Miami’s push to become a major hub for technology businesses gains momentum.”

The platform is relatively straightforward. It simplifies the business licensing process by giving visitors easy-to-read content that explains the process of starting a business step-by-step. In addition, it combines the Certificate of Use and Business Tax Receipt applications into one form, which cuts down on repetitive daily entry, thereby saving time for users as well as for the city departments that process and approve applications. 

The new app is the work of Miami’s Department of Innovation and Technology, which worked in tandem with its zoning and code compliance departments, as well as with the gov tech company, OpenCounter.

Tags:

Civic Tech
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine